It is a rare and beautiful thing, to feel as though you’ve known a character your entire life. And such is the case with Charlie, Vasco, and the plethora of incredible characters found in Emily Rooke’s novel, The Dying Light. From the moment I began reading, I ceased to remember a time I hadn’t known these characters. So expertly and emotionally crafted, they will quickly have a place, forever, in your heart.
Sixteen-year-old Charlie Carroway thought he had left the nightmares of his childhood behind and finally found a place to call home. But when he is ensnared by an old enemy bearing a grudge, he learns that his dark past will be harder to outrun than he thought.
Lurking in the darkness of this shadowy world of witch covens, someone far more powerful and dangerous than Charlie can imagine has their eyes on him too. Now, Charlie must make a desperate attempt to save his family, or risk losing them forever. Maybe, after all this time, Charlie has finally found a battle he cannot face alone…
As new friendships and confusing feelings emerge, and threats close in on him from all sides, can Charlie find the courage to protect his loved ones, without losing himself?
The Dying Light, the first of the Bloodwitch series, is a true dark fantasy; each striking act of magic is accompanied by plenty of grit and grime. To say this book is thrilling would be the understatement of the year. I found myself repeating the phrase, “Just one more chapter,” more times than I care to admit! Indeed, from the first page to the last, The Dying Light is filled with fights, frights, and all the action you can imagine. Yet, Rooke manages to convey such depth and emotion even in the most epic of battles, proving that you do not need to sacrifice tenderness for intensity. Both can exist, and in fact, they can be at their best together.
I would say, without a doubt, that was what struck me most about this book; the beautiful balance between brutality and benignity. Charlie’s endless care and compassion makes the violence he endures even more painful. And though you’ll want to slap him on occasion for insisting on helping everyone, even at his own peril, yet refusing help himself, you can’t help but be endeared to him. Charlie has a heart of gold, despite what he has and continues to go through, and it’s impossible not to root for him.
But while Charlie is the first to capture our hearts, he’s far from the last. Vasco, I must say, is a favourite of mine. Tough and mysterious, he’s so much more than he seems, and though his heart is guarded, it’s full of romance and a surprising amount of sentiment. With a sharp wit and just the right amount of angst, he’s the perfect example of a well-written fantasy hero.
Aside from Charlie and Vasco, each of the secondary characters is as intriguing as the next! I love their unique, and often, opposing personalities. The banter is really quite effortless, believable, and will leave you chuckling at the most unexpected of times! As for the villains? Well, there’s quite a few to be found throughout The Dying Light, each terrifying in their own right, though in very different ways! I’m very excited and curious to see what Rooke does with them in the sequel, particularly regarding their motivation! She does such a wonderful job teasing it in this book.
I also have to applaud Rooke for her impeccable worldbuilding! We all fear the dreaded information dump that is found too often in the fantasy genre, but there isn’t even a hint of it in The Dying Light. Every single piece of information on both Penumbra and Elysia is effortlessly, yet purposefully placed, immediately immersing you in the world and culture, filling you with intrigue without confusion. Part of what makes this book stand out is the fact that the world feels so familiar, even with the elements of fantasy. It almost feels, in a sense, dystopian or post-apocalyptic, and I absolutely adore that. It’s so rare to feel so instantly at home in an entirely new world, and it makes me all the more excited to learn more in future books!
There’s so much emotion on every single page, as well as in every character, and it really shows the care and passion Rooke has put into this incredible and unique story. I have to say, I don’t tend to gravitate toward novels with male protagonists, but Charlie is such a relatable and enticing main character, I couldn’t help but be drawn in! I also have to say that this is the first LGBTQ+ fantasy I’ve read, and I absolutely adored the way Rooke wrote this relationship. If anyone is looking to get into this genre, this book is the perfect introduction! All of the relationships, both romantic and plutonic, are so natural, and honestly, it’s such a wonderful example of a well executed version of found family.
There is so much to praise here, but I’ll leave you with this. The Dying Light pulled this bookworm out of a three year reading slump. I used to review professionally, as you may or may not know, and during my time as a book critic, I read many books I loved, and many I hated. Reading fiction, something I’ve loved since I can remember, became a chore, something I dreaded. And though I haven’t reviewed a single book since 2018, I haven’t been able to get back into reading since, no matter how hard I tried. That is, until I read The Dying Light, which I devoured in three days. I cannot thank Rooke or her incredible characters enough for dragging me, without mercy, out of that slump and reminding me of my love of reading. Many have tried, many have failed, and so, believe me when I say it is the highest praise I can give.
The Dying Light is available now.